If my memory serves me correctly, it was about 15 years ago when I was an invited guest speaker at a dinner for professional engineers at Kirkbrae Country Club. Being that my late father was an accomplished executive in the banking security and semiconductor sectors, and an electrical engineer at his core, I was quite comfortable with the crowd. Somehow the usual question and answer portion of the program turned to highway design, and that’s where I pretty much stepped in it.
Reflecting on my nightly commute from East Providence to Cumberland, I joked that whoever designed the 95 north/146 north split “must have been drinking at the time.” That interchange had stunned me on my first drive home 22 years ago and still does to this day. Drivers merging vehicles from downtown Providence onto 95 north intending to stay on that route have to cross three lanes to the left while those already on 95 north intending to take 146 north have to merge to the right. You take your life in your hands with every trip as drivers play chicken with each other, randomly speeding up, breaking, cutting in and out, with and without using directional signals.
So yeah, I said it. And how was I to know that the family of one of the reported (late) design engineers of that road section was sitting right in front of me, creating one of the more awkward moments for me on the local speaker’s circuit.
They took it personally, I never meant it to be such. But I couldn’t retreat on the horror of the merge. Gosh, just drive it!
I thought of that night again this week while watching President Joe Biden sign the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. It passed the old-fashioned way because roads and bridges are not partisan.
Rhode Island gets an additional $1.7 billion in federal funds, including $600 million targeted for acceleration of the projects on the revolving 10-year “Rhode Works” plan.
So, for instance, the current $800 million 6/10 connector project, scheduled for completion in 2025 (yes, 2025) might move up a bit, to say, 2024.
We might even have the money to clear the trees from the exit 20 sign on 295 south.
And fingers crossed, maybe before I retire, the nightly highway from hell trip home will be a smooth one.
Mask mandate extended
Hinting at a “ramp down” of COVID protocols this past week, Gov. Dan McKee extended the mask mandate for Rhode Island schools just through mid-December showing his itch to move along with a reported intent to soon turn the decision back to the local districts.
That’s not going to make the stressed school boards and superintendents very happy. They didn’t want the parental arguments at the beginning of the school year, and the guess is they don’t want them now.
“Test to Stay” will help. Reportedly the trial run in Westerly elementary has already kept dozens of kids in school. Should the governor make a shift to that local authority on the masks, a statewide funded commitment to repeat what Massachusetts has been successfully doing needs to come with it.
Normalcy is returning
Gillette Stadium is full, The Dunk and the Ryan Center, albeit with masks, are loud again. Church is on a regular schedule. We’re returning to the office.
This Thanksgiving will feel profound with the grandkids in our home again.
I wish you a wonderful celebration.
And it’s OK if there is a tear in your gravy.
Dan Yorke is the PM Drive Host on 99.7/AM 630 WPRO, Dan Yorke State of Mind weekends on Fox Providence/WPRI 12 and owns communications/crisis consulting firm DYCOMM LLC.